Don’t Change Your Mind About Me

This is it. I’m going to do it. The controversial question that I have heard about a million times was bound to come up on this blog sooner or later. And so in this post I’m going to address it. The question is this: Was Frank Sinatra part of the mafia?

17d0d4a27d4a8a823dc42c67e0810014Believe me, for some reason this is like the underlying thing that everybody on the planet thinks about him. I’ve heard it SO many times, and it’s one of the main reasons that being a Frank fan has it’s interesting moments. So, I’m going to give you the story.

Now, the reason that the question isn’t: was Frank Sinatra involved with the mafia? is because that actually isn’t a question. I’ll just go ahead and say it like it is: Frank Sinatra was involved with the mafia. And so were a lot of other stars. In the day and age when organized crime was such an industry, mafia bosses owned clubs and casinos: places where people like Frank had to go to perform as part of their career.

It’s also true though, that Frank had a fascination with the mafia. He had a sort of complex that way, I guess. He liked to be around them because he found it fascinating and captivating. In the end though, it seems that those people just ended up using him like they used everybody else: making connections here and there in order to make money. Now just for the record, Frank Sinatra was not the type of person who could be used or had, but in the end that’s what it was close to.

I think Frank considered those people friends, and they considered him a means to an end. So, yes, he was involved with them, but was he part of them? Absolutely not. And he spent his life trying to prove that. Frank had the right connections and a little fascination, and there the whole thing was born. He was eventually awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian award possible.

And, though a little condensed, that is it. That is the story. Kind of anti-climactic, right?

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I’ve Got You Under My Skin

There is, quite simply, no way around it. I’ve thought about it under my skinendlessly. I’ve gone different routes and attempted to dissect it. All to no avail. I can’t figure it out, and probably never will. If I’d known in the beginning that this would end up happening…I’d probably still do it all the same.

I am not alone in this feeling of mine. Not at all. In fact, it has been the plague of Sinatra fans since the beginning of his career. The dilemma is this: we find ourselves drawn to Frank. There was always, and still is, something about him that got at you. There was something about him that got under your skin and wouldn’t leave, something that makes you keep coming back and listening to the music over and over again. In her book about their life together, Frank’s wife Barbara talks often about his incredible magnetism. How people just couldn’t seem to get away. There is only one way I’ve ever heard this accurately explained, and it is this: He’s Frank Sinatra.

During the height of his career, and perhaps even more since Frank passed away, we’ve been trying to figure out why people flocked to him. What is it about Frank Sinatra that just gets at you? Is it the fact that he started a young immigrant boy from New Jersey and ended a legend? Is it that, even after all the books and articles and the endless things you can find about him, there is always an element of mystery? It always seems that no matter how much you think you know about him, you really don’t know anything at all.

I’m far from being able to answer this question with any kind of authority. All I can say about it is from my own personal experience, and I’ve had these exact thoughts so many times. Each time I meet somebody new and tell them how much I love Frank, I get the same question every time. “Oh, why Frank Sinatra?”

frankThe fact that I can never really come up with anything to say makes me realize that I am in this same boat as everybody else. I can really only say as an answer, “What do you mean? Why not?” Because it is something so intangible, I doubt that all of us philosophizing about it will get us anywhere. There is no answer, it is just the way it is. He is wonderful because he is Frank Sinatra. His music and movies are phenomenal because, no matter what, he gets under your skin. And on top of all of that, he does it with class.

I’ve got you under my skin.
I’ve got you deep in the heart of me.
So deep in my heart that you’re really a part of me.
I’ve got you under my skin.
I’d tried so not to give in.
I said to myself: this affair never will go so well.
But why should I try to resist when, baby, I know so well
I’ve got you under my skin?

Dream A Little Dream Of Me

Dino youngDean Martin was born Dino Paul Crocetti on June 7, 1917 in Steubenville, Ohio, the son of Italian immigrants. And as if Dean Martin couldn’t get any cooler, the facts about his early life pre-career are incredible!

After dropping out of high school in the 10th grade, Dean’s life took some very interesting turns! He bootlegged liquor, served as a speakeasy croupier, dealt blackjack, worked in a steel mill, and boxed as a welterweight. In the boxing world he dubbed himself “Kid Crochet” and earned a broken nose, which was later straightened, and a lot of bruises.

Giving up boxing moved him on to his position as a croupier in andean in the ring illegal casino, and at the same time began singing with local bands. At this time he called himself Dino Martini after an opera tenor. In the early 1940’s he started singing for band leader Sammy Watkins who suggested that he change his name to Dean Martin.

Dean married his first wife Elizabeth “Betty” Anne McDonald in 1941 and they had four children together.

Although Dean continued to sing in nightclubs and with various bands, he didn’t enjoy the same success as Bing Crosby or Frank Sinatra at first. He was yet another name in a world where many singers had the same style, which encouraged him to keep singing with different bands until he developed his own paired with his irresistible charm.

Though Dean didn’t do well when performing in a nightclub in New York just after Frank, it did set the stage for them to meet.

dean and jerryThings didn’t really take off for him until he teamed up with Jerry Lewis. They met at a nightclub in New York and formed a fast friendship which led to a ten year partnership. To this day the antics and laughter which they brought to their audiences are still enjoyed and loved. Though they both moved on to separate careers and lives, it is still very common to hear their names in a sentence together.

Dean and Jerry Lewis did enjoy a lot of success together. But it seems that even after it ended, there was still an entire world waiting for Dean.

Aren’t You Glad You’re You?

celebrateIn a recent post I briefly mentioned the things coming on Singing About Sinatra. It is, after all, a very important year in the world of Sinatra fans. With the Sinatra Centennial only five months away, I have known that I wanted to do some great things on this blog to bring in the celebrating. But I just could not think of anything extraordinary to do. Until today!

Yes, it’s true. I’ve figured it out! I’ve thought of an incredible way that we can bring in the Sinatra Centennial together, and I cannot tell you how excited I am. It is to the point where there are butterflies in my stomach and everything.

It occurred to me earlier today that one of the things that made Frank who he was were the people in his life. He once said, “I would like to be remembered as a man who had a wonderful time living life, a man who had good friends, fine family – and I don’t think I could ask for anything more than that, actually.” The people in Frank’s life were crucial to him!

It is for this reason that, in the months leading up to the Sinatra Centennial, I have decided to spend time featuring the different people that Frank loved and admired. His friends and family, the people that he spent his time with. The people that helped make Frank who he was.

Here’s how this is going to work: I’ll introduce our featured individual and spend posts talking about them, their life, and of course, how they were so important in Frank’s life. Aren’t you glad you get to be a part of this?

At this time, I’m very excited to introduce our first featured individual to you this evening. There were many, many people that I could’ve chosen from to be first, and many of them will most definitely appear later. But for innumerable reasons, there was really only one choice when it came down to it. So, ladies and gentlemen, please welcome to Singing About Sinatra:

deanDean Martin!

Oh, what can words really say about Dean Martin? I could spend hours and hours telling you how much I love and adore Dean Martin. Let me put it this way: if I wasn’t doing a Frank Sinatra blog, I’d be doing a Dean Martin blog. Dean Martin is absolutely amazing. Like I mentioned, there really are no words.

In the upcoming posts, I will be delighted to share some about Dean’s own life and career. Make sure you stick around for that! I am so excited to get to share the next handful of posts with you discussing the one and only Dean Martin!

The Single Man

I suppose I didn’t really think it would happen. Even yesterday I had my doubts. But…oh! my! goodness! Frank Sinatra Day is a mere 1 day away! TOMORROW!!! Tomorrow, everyone, it’s happening tomorrow! I am so excited that I really don’t know what to do with myself. And so, today we conclude our countdown. We’ve been going over 4 Reasons Frank Sinatra Has Influenced Your Life, and today we’ve reached our last one.

One of those pictures taken at just the right moment. One of my favorites.
One of those pictures taken at just the right moment. One of my favorites.

So, for Reason #4 (though last, certainly not least important and probably not what you were expecting at all): Frank was just a man.

I know that I tend to go on and on about Frank and how wonderful he was and all of that, and I’ll probably continue to do that for forever. But at the end of the day, Frank was just a man. He grew up in Hoboken, New Jersey and was fortunate enough to realize his dreams. He could’ve easily ended up in an office somewhere and the name Frank Sinatra wouldn’t have meant that much to the world. The difference is that his name does mean something to the world. He didn’t just end up in an office somewhere. He may have just been one man among many, but he made something of himself.

Frank Sinatra never, ever stopped trying. And you shouldn’t either. It is an extremely powerful lesson that he taught to many people. He changed the world he lived in in countless ways because he was not afraid to reach for something beyond the horizon. He became so much more than an influential musician, actor, and humanitarian because he saw beyond the rooftops of Hoboken and knew that he could “make it there”.

When all is said and done, Frank was just one man. But that never stopped him. And because it never stopped him, the world is a different place.

Why Should I Cry Over You

It’s actually going to happen everyone! Oh, my goodness, it isn’t just a joke! Frank Sinatra Day is only 2 days away! A mere 2 days until one of the greatest days of the whole year! (A few of the others being Frank’s birthday and Christmas, of course.) And with that, we’ve got good things going on with our countdown today.

The last two days we’ve been doing 4 Reasons Frank Sinatra Has Influenced Your Life. Just to do a quick recap, our first two reasons were: Frank redefined fame, Frank redefined music. Today, we’ll continue with another thing that Frank redefined and in doing so, changed the world you live in.

Frank and Dean Martin playing around on the set of a movie.
Frank and Dean Martin playing around on the set of a movie.

Reason #3: Frank redefined originality.

If there is one thing you can say about Frank, it’s that he was an original. From the get go he was never afraid to be exactly who he was. In a world where one wrong word could send your career down the drain, that was some risky business. The world was a different place then, and today’s whole gag of “being yourself” wasn’t necessarily shared back then, especially for those in the limelight. If you wanted to keep your career and keep the public’s favor, it was best to play it all cool. That’s why many stars declared themselves politically neutral at the time.

But Frank never pretended to be anything other than what he was. If somebody didn’t agree with the way that he was, it didn’t really bother him.  His career was destined to be a lifelong one, and as far as he was concerned he may as well be himself from the beginning. In fact, that was the whole purpose of the Rat Pack, though Frank was doing it long before the formation of that group. When Humphrey Bogart began the Rat Pack, he told Frank that it’s purpose was for them to be who they were and not care what others thought about it.

For Frank, life was always about living. About enjoying everything to the fullest and making the best of memories. And one couldn’t do that if one was pretending to be something they weren’t. After Frank’s originality breath through, it seemed that the people in Hollywood and around the world weren’t as scared to be who they were anymore. After all, we all have to live life, so we might as well be ourselves while doing it.

Learnin’ The Blues

3 more days! 3! Just 3! It’s so close I can almost taste the Tootsie Rolls and cherry Lifesavers. Frank Sinatra Day is just over the hill and our countdown continues! Yesterday we began 4 Reasons Frank Sinatra Has Influenced Your Life, and gave the first reason. Today we get to continue!

Frank working in the studio.
Frank working in the studio.

Reason #2: Frank redefined music.

For Frank, it was always about the music from day one. When learning a new song, he would sit down with just the lyrics, so that at that point it was just a poem. He wouldn’t just learn the words themselves, he would learn what the meant and what the song was trying to say. It was this approach to his music that gave him the deep appeal that he had from the start. People loved him because when he sang, you somehow knew that he meant every word of it.  He cared about every part of a song, every word and every note of music.

He wanted to make ripples with his music and reach people not just on the surface. His music found a way into the hearts of so many. In no way am I suggesting that Frank was the first or the only one to do this, but the way he did it was just different. There was always something about Frank that was just different. He changed what it meant to be a star, he changed what music was supposed to mean. It wasn’t just words and a tune, it was something that could reach inside your soul. When reading about him in various books, you can find evidence of this. Many people remember him for the way he sang and what music meant to him; for what he wanted it to mean to others.

When Frank Sinatra stepped onto that stage, music was simply destined to be different. Frank once said, “Whatever else has been said about me personally is unimportant. When I sing, I believe. I’m honest.” Frank may have been a wonderful humanitarian and actor, but music was always at his heart and the way he went about everything. Much of his humanitarian work was done through singing, for example. Not only was it his life, he happened to change it in the process. Music was changed by Frank Sinatra, and is the way it is today because of that change.

It’s A Wonderful World

And on our countdown we have officially reached 4 more days! 4 more days until Frank Sinatra Day everyone! Since there were no particular requests on yesterday’s post for further countdown posts, today I’ll begin something special. With 4 more days left, I’m going to begin (drum roll, please) 4 Ways Frank Sinatra Has Influenced Your Life. (I mean, it may still be a working title a little bit, and the acronym certainly doesn’t make sense but…) Yes, that’s right! Today I’ll begin to specifically tell you ways that Frank made this world wonderful, and how he influenced your life in the process.

Frank at the 1971 Oscars with his Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award.
Frank at the 1971 Oscars with his Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award.

So, for today’s Reason #1: Frank redefined fame.

When Frank rose to the top, being famous was something completely different. Stars were usually neutral politically to avoid losing popularity or support. And the solo artist wasn’t really a thing, honestly. There were people like Bing Crosby of course, wonderful Bing who was Frank’s idol. But in general there was really only so far an artist could go without a big band behind them. But when Frankie came to town, young Frankie with his unruly hair and floppy bow ties, things began to change. Frank came right out and declared that he had a party affiliation, he came right out and said that he was Frank Sinatra and that was that. It didn’t matter that he might lose popularity or even his career over it, he was honest from the beginning about where he stood. That was something pretty unknown to Hollywood at the time.

And more than that, Frank was politically active. He campaigned for presidents and gave speeches against racism in small towns. He showed other people in Hollywood that being famous was more than having your face on a record or the silver screen, that they could try and make a difference with the influence that they had. They could support things and raise awareness, and it could change the world for the better. He helped raise money for all sorts of charities throughout his entire career to the tune of $1 billion and throughout his life gave away millions anonymously. Post-WWII, Frank was one of the ones who tried to rally America into helping to save Europe’s Jews from the horrors of the Holocaust.

And these are only a few of the things that Frank did personally to help make the world a better place. The influence that he had on others to do the same was tremendous, and too far reaching to really understand. You can say that this would’ve eventually happened in Hollywood, of course, but Frank did it way before it’s time. He spoke out against or for controversial ideas and opinions when it wasn’t alright to do so. And with that, he helped to form a different world for all of us.

Softly As I Leave You

And here we are with only 6 more days left! Less than one week until Frank Sinatra Day, everyone! Because today marks the last day of our narrative, I just want to say that it has been extremely fun for me to give you the condensed version of Frank’s life. It has tested my knowledge a little, though I will proudly say that I only had to do research perhaps two or three times just to check specific years. Everything else I knew from heart. And so, let’s begin.

Frank at his 80th birthday party.
Frank at his 80th birthday party.

By the 1990’s Frank was in his late 70’s and early 80’s and was largely retired. He made his last movie and television appearances in the late 1980’s and early 1990’s. His last public singing performance was at his 80th birthday party. It was  a huge party where many, many stars showed up to pay their respects to Frank and his amazing career, the empire state building was lit up in blue. He sang My Way.

At this point, almost everybody that Frank had known and loved had already passed on. In her autobiography, Barbara talks about the last few years of Frank’s life and it seems almost sad. He would look around the empty house with those blue eyes of his and say things like, “This place ain’t doing to good for a hotel.” But honestly, I think you have to look past that. Frank had lived an amazing life and had so many wonderful memories. He had a wonderful wife that stayed by him every step of the way for 27 years, if you include their five years of courtship as well as 22 years of marriage.  As the last one of all of his friends to pass away, he got to be the one to remember. One of Frank’s most well known quotes is, “I would like to be remembered as a man who had a wonderful time living life, a man who had good friends, fine family – and I don’t think I could ask for anything more than that, actually.” 

On May 13, 1998 at the age of 82, Frank was rushed to the hospital. Barbara wasn’t with him at the time, ironically enough, but made it to the hospital in time to say good-bye. It had been obvious that Frank’s time was coming, but it still seemed rather sudden. The funeral was huge. Their were sky banners and, and special permission was even given by President Clinton to put a flag on Frank’s casket in the private ceremony. Barbara also talks about this in her book. Frank had loved his country so much, and had such an amazing respect for it. However, he had not been a soldier and he knew it. Barbara wasn’t sure that Frank would’ve wanted that honor because of that. Nevertheless, he was given that honor and the world said a last farewell the the man whose career had so touched everybody’s life in so many ways.  It was absolutely clear that Frank Sinatra would always live on.

And now, the end is near;e48e1c8b1be1156ea6333439ddf4a152
And so I face the final curtain.
My friend, I’ll say it clear,
I’ll state my case, of which I’m certain.

I’ve lived a life that’s full.
I’ve traveled each and ev’ry highway;
But more, much more than this,
I did it my way.

Regrets, I’ve had a few;
But then again, too few to mention.
I did what I had to do
And saw it through without exemption.

I planned each charted course;
Each careful step along the byway,
But more, much more than this,
I did it my way.222ffc153d49a6cba7fc520b2174dd0e

Yes, there were times, I’m sure you knew
When I bit off more than I could chew.
But through it all, when there was doubt,
I ate it up and spit it out.
I faced it all and I stood tall;
And did it my way.

I’ve loved, I’ve laughed and cried.
I’ve had my fill; my share of losing.
And now, as tears subside,
I find it all so amusing.

To think I did all that;
And may I say – not in a shy way,
“No, oh no not me,
I did it my way”.

For what is a man, what has he got?45f28acca79c9129c469bab8213a3cae
If not himself, then he has naught.
To say the things he truly feels;
And not the words of one who kneels.
The record shows I took the blows –
And did it my way!

 

It Was A Very Good Year

One week, everyone! Yes, yes! 7 more days until the magical day! And as such, today we continue our narrative of Frank’s life.

ed77214e0ef0f6d175177ea9ddb462a1Yesterday we visited the 1970’s and Frank’s marriage to Barbara Marx. We talked about their travels and the people the met, how the entire world was before them. The 1980’s are interesting in Frank’s life because they were very much the same as the 1970’s were. Frank was in his late sixties and early seventies in the 1980’s, but that didn’t stop him from being who he was. When listening to his music, you can definitely tell when it was recorded in his life, whether he was younger or older. But that doesn’t change the voice itself. It is always Frank.

Frank’s life may have been winding down a little bit in the 1980’s, especially as they got closer to the 90’s, but that never changed his popularity or who he was. Because, of course, when you’re Frank Sinatra that doesn’t really happen. He had reached an age where he was still working but he was a living legend. He’d reached a point where he could look back and think of his life, as the song says, as vintage wine from fine old kegs. 1980 was when he recorded and released the theme from New York, New York and it became a signature almost immediately. It had definitely been a very good year. And things were far from over for him at this point. He was still touring and traveling and Barbara was still at his side. It seemed that the best was yet to come.